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I had a conversation last week with some really bright folks who run a social media agency in New York that works with several Fortune 500 brands. We got to discussing crisis communications within a real-time setting, and how they could effectively use social media to almost instantly respond to a crisis and mitigate its effects.
Throughout the conversation, we kept coming back to the point that in order to properly handle any type of crisis in real time, no matter what the brand or situation, you need a proper plan in place well before the crisis even hits. Because no matter what type of media you are using to monitor and respond, you always need a plan in place that details exactly how, who and why you will respond and the type of response you will give to different audiences to ensure their concerns are addressed appropriately.
What this discussion helped to solidify was my belief that effective strategic public relations is a lot like America’s government system: our counsel should consist of a series of checks and balances for nearly every situation to ensure no one strategy, nor tactic nor voice overpowers the others, particularly in a high-intensity and sensitive crisis situation.
I have said it many times before, but it bears repeating: in my professional opinion, counsel is the No. 1 strategic value PR professionals provide clients and their organizations. We are the check and balance between real-time reactions and emotions that come with every business decision, and the reality of knowing each of our client’s/organization’s audiences like the back of our hands, and understanding what messages and reactionary steps will truly resonate with them.
In other words, a good PR professional may tell a client it’s not necessary to respond to that blog comment bashing their product because the commenter has added little to no constructive value to the conversation, or he or she is merely baiting a company into a situation they really don’t want to nor can afford to get into.
Check and balance.
We’re that necessary (and quite valuable) middleman between the front lines of a company and the back-end world of legal, which will often advise to do nothing and say nothing until everything has been discussed ad nauseam. We know a client’s customers, advertisers, business partners and investors won’t stand for that slow of a response, but we also understand the market can be quite fickle, and too reactionary of a response can be just as damaging to a brand or organization as too slow a response. We’re there to ensure both sides of the coin are thoroughly though out before a potentially negative situation occurs, so that when it does, and the client is calling (Barking? Screaming? Praying?) for a real-time reaction, we have a strategy already in place—that has already been practiced and understood by key folks within the organization—to put responses into action.
Check and balance.
What are some of the steps you take to keep your client’s or bosses’ reactions in check when the pressure is on?
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